Trial of the ex-presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka began; in one day 90 searches of human rights defenders in Belarus took place; Belarusian “protests” arrived in Japan
17 February 2021 | BYHelp-Mediagroup
Trial of the ex-presidential candidate Viktar Babaryka has begun
In the morning, bomb disposal experts arrived at the courthouse, and the vehicles on the parking lots were taken away by a tow truck. The trial was declared public, but independent journalists and the general public were not allowed to attend the session. A large queue gathered at the entrance to the court.
The court denied all the requests by the defense, including the change of the measure of restraint to house arrest.
Viktar Babaryka is accused of laundering funds obtained by criminal means and accepting a bribe on an especially large scale. Babaryka’s charge is 340 pages long.
Courts’ conveyor belt runs non-stop
Prosecutor requested a two-year prison sentence for Darya Chultsova and Katsiaryna Andreyeva with a transfer to a general regime penal colony.
The well-known advertising expert Vlad Saveliev was sentenced to three years in open prison for participating in a protest march.
Andrei Komlik-Yamatsin, a representative of the independent trade union of radio and electronics industry workers, was sentenced to 25 days of administrative arrest. The reasons for his arrest were a silver-red garland on the balcony and the refusal to open the door for the security officers who came to his house.
In Zhodzina, all 59 persons arrested at a concert near Smaliavichy on 13 February received a sentence. In total, this group received 660 days of detention and 13,050 Belarusian rubles (about 4,000 euros) in fines.
In Skidzel, an artist was sentenced for painting a “cynical image of a stork” on a bus stop. She received a fine of 4,350 rubles (about 1,360 euros), while her friend was sentenced to 2,900 rubles (about 900 euros). Her bicycle was also confiscated as a means of committing the crime.
Belarusian “protests” arrived in Japan
Today, Tokyo hosts an exhibition of Belarusian protest art “Expired. Belarus art of resistance”.
The exhibition is dedicated to six months of peaceful protests in Belarus. It tells the story of protest events through art, reflecting the peaceful nature of Belarusian resistance. The exhibition explores how local initiatives, self-organization of the residents, women’s movement and art have become a driving force against police violence and brutality in the fight to end “Europe’s last dictatorship”.
International human rights community condemned the persecution of human rights defenders in Belarus
On 17 February, it became known that the day before about 90 police searches of journalists and human rights activists had been carried out throughout the country. Viasna human rights centre, the independent trade union of radio and electronics industry workers, the Belarusian Association of Journalists and private activists were persecuted. The Ministry of Internal Affairs reported on what was found and confiscated during the searches.
Personal funds and bank cards were confiscated. In total, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reports on the amount of 80,000 US dollars; application forms for financial and other assistance for the persecuted and hundreds of receipts for payment of fines [given to individuals by the state] and legal services; protest literature, namely, magazines and books on the history of Belarus. And, quite unexpectedly, “presumably drugs and a gun-like object”.
Here is what the international organizations said on this matter.
Human Rights Watch
“These raids are part of a blatant intimidation campaign. Belarusian authorities are targeting human rights defenders and independent journalists, apparently trying to eviscerate what’s left of Belarus’ civil society.”
“The raids on activists’ houses are another alarming attempt by the Belarusian regime to silence dissent in the country. The authorities must immediately stop fabricating criminal charges and end their harassment campaign against human rights activists and lawyers, who play a vital role as the last bastion of defense for hundreds of people facing persecution for their political views. Attacks on human rights groups, together with continued pressure on attorneys, threaten this essential source of protection and will lead to further international isolation for Belarus.”
Civil Rights Defenders
“We also call on the international community to raise its voice in support of those targeted, use all possible channels to condemn the authorities’ actions and remind them about their international commitments and obligations.”
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
“Human rights defenders in Belarus have long played an important role in promoting the rights of their fellow citizens, despite many challenges. It is therefore very concerning to read reports of what seems to be a concerted effort by the Belarusian authorities to investigate and intimidate them, in connection to the peaceful protests that have been taking place in Belarus for many months.”
For more information on the events of 17 February 2021, please visit Infocenter Free Belarus 2020: